Winter Color in the Garden

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Just because it is winter right now does not mean that you have to do without color in your garden. There are a number of plants with winter interest that can be used to brighten up your landscape during an otherwise bare and colorless time. Listed are just a few plants to consider for bringing color into your winter garden.

Japanese and sasanqua camellias (Camellia japonica and sasanqua)

Camellias are a traditional garden favorite that provide beautiful flowers in the winter garden. There are many cultivars of camellias available for landscapes. Camellias have been a cherished plant in southern gardens for years, known for their flowers that bloom from fall through winter and range in color from white through pink to deep red. The flowers can be simple, single flowers with few petals or be double flowers that include numerous petals. Camellias range from large shrubs to small trees and have dark-green, broad-leaf evergreen leaves. Camellias tend to favor moist, acidic, well-drained, high- organic matter soils.

Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta)

There are many cultivars of evergreen hollies that have red berries in the winter. ‘Burfordii’, a well-known cultivar, is a dense shrub or small tree with red fruits. An alternative to the common ‘Burfordii’ cultivar is ‘D’ Or’ that bears bright golden berries instead of the standard red berries. There is even a Chinese holly cultivar that has dark green leaves with cream and gold variations called ‘O’Spring’. Most hollies are durable, very adaptable, and withstand droughts.

Red and Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’ and ‘Flaviramea’)

These dogwoods are especially striking because they have brilliantly colored red or yellow stems in winter. The ‘Baileyi’ cultivar has a red stem color, while the ‘Flaviramea’ has yellow stems. When used in the landscape these dogwoods are showy in the winter months with their brightly-colored stems. Both dogwoods have small, whitish flowers in early summer. The fall foliage is variable but can be reddish purple.

Lenten rose or Christmas rose (Helleborus sp.)

Helleborus has saucer-shaped flowers in the winter. The flowers can come in lavender, pink, and white colors depending on the species. These nodding flowers can add some color in late winter to early spring. Helleborus is a low-growing, evergreen perennial. Helleborus typically prefer moist soils and light to moderate shade. The foliage is shiny, dark green. Helleborus can work well as a ground cover in shady areas of the landscape.

Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

When one thinks of crapemyrtles, they often think about the wide variety of colors in the summer. In the winter though, crapemyrtles can add some interest to the garden. Crapemyrtles have attractive bark that can add color and interest to the garden in the winter. Crapemyrtles have smooth bark that can vary from brown to gray in color. The bark also peels off over time, exposing variable colors of under bark. Crapemyrtles are a great example of that winter color and interest in the garden does not have to come from just flowers or berries. Other plant parts, like the bark with crapemyrtles, can also add winter interest to the landscape or garden.

Winter daphne (Daphne odora)

Winter daphne flowers from late January through early March. Winter daphne has a wonderful fragrance that can be used to entice anyone into their garden during the winter. Winter daphne is a small, mounded evergreen shrub with clusters of rosy pink to lavender blooms. Daphne can grow in sun to partial shade and needs well-drained soil. One downfall to this winter flowering shrub is that it has reportedly been short lived.

Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Winter jasmine is a broad spreading shrub with arching stems. Winter jasmine has light yellow flowers from January to early spring. The foliage is glossy, emerald-green leaves that are divided into three leaflets. This is a good plant for banks and poor soil areas. Because of its trailing branches, winter jasmine works well along walls where the branches can flow over the side. Winter jasmine can grow rapidly and probably should be rejuvenated every 3 to 5 years by cutting plant to within 6 inches of the ground.

These are just a few of the many plants that can provide color and interest to your garden during the winter months. There are many other plants that can provide winter color whether it is through flowers, berries, or stems.

Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.

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